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GRAMOPHONE (05/2020)
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First Hand

Code-barres / Barcode : 5060216344591


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Reviewer: Mark Seow

It’s the non-Handel works and the music not originally for viola da gamba that are particularly interesting on this new release from First Hand Records. The Sonata in G, a tone lower than the original for violin (HWV372), is an enticing arrangement. Choosing a slower tempo than most violinists for the Allegro movements, soloists Ibrahim Aziz and Masumi Yamamoto bring out the cantabile in Handel’s writing. But the effect is somewhat laboured – every phrase is just a bit too thoughtful – sacrificing the inherent playfulness and carefree exuberance of these movements that is essential to the overall balance of the sonata.

The fairly unknown Prélude by SainteColombe le fils, however, is an excellent addition. Aziz makes extraordinary sense of the somewhat strange writing; his playing is full of breath and mystery. Yamamoto’s solo contribution to the disc, Handel’s Suite No 4 in E minor, HWV429, is equally delightful. The harpsichord gleams under Yamamoto’s touch; the Allemande and Sarabande in particular are intoxicating. At the centre of the disc is its pearl. The Prelude in D minor, an arrangement of the opening to the Keyboard Suite No 4 in D minor, is utterly gorgeous. Aziz weaves an improvisatory spell of arpeggiac magic; more of this, please. The sound, engineered and mastered by John Croft, is lovely throughout.

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